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How to tackle a house project without going broke

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Associated Press
Published:
  • A major home renovation can easily empty your wallet, but small projects like replacing a hinge are quick and affordable ways to spruce up your home.

    Associated Press

    A major home renovation can easily empty your wallet, but small projects like replacing a hinge are quick and affordable ways to spruce up your home.

NEW YORK — A major home renovation can easily empty your wallet, but fixing those nagging home projects? That’s a quick and affordable way to spruce up your home. The idea appears to be spreading. Total spending on home remodeling is expected to improve this year for the first time since 2006 — before the housing market burst.
Home owners new and old want to redo their homes — projects as simple as touching up bathroom tiles, hanging new ceiling fans or replacing a section of drywall. Thanks to new online tools and a slow economy, it’s never been easier or cheaper to do these projects yourself or find a contractor to do the heavy lifting.
The gradual economic recovery and rise in home prices is likely to push up spending on home remodeling 5 percent this year to $121.5 billion, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
Here are tips to jumpstart your home projects by showing you where to research, and how to find contractors and the tools you’ll need:
Research projects
Still figuring out what to do or how much it will cost? You can research projects online or as you walk around your house, with smartphone in hand. Home Depot’s free iPhone application lets you research projects, read local ads, locate stores and create a shopping list. The company figures between 40 and 50 percent of home improvement projects start with online searches, up from the teens even just three years ago, said Hal Lawton, president of Homedepot.com.
Home and Garden Television offers tips on its site http://www.hgtv.com/ with ideas for remodeling, and spotlights various parts of a home, such as drains, to provide an understanding and ideas for projects and ways to maintain them. There’s also a message board where people can trade ideas or tips on what to do with budgets.
Want to know how much a project will cost? Lowe’s website offers cost calculators to find out how much carpet or wallpaper you’ll need, or how much mulch to buy for your lawn. Plug in the dimensions of your room, lawn or other area and follow the prompts. Lowe’s also takes visitors through questions to determine what they need — such as help choosing a kitchen faucet by asking what kind of handles and sprayer are desired, and what typically goes in the sink.
Bid for contractors
Sears has a new site that lets homeowners put out projects for bids by prescreened professionals. The Servicelive.com site — and a corresponding iPhone application — almost work like a dating site that pairs homeowners with contractors. Homeowners create profiles and list projects they want to get done, ranging from big ones like kitchen remodels all the way down to tasks like finally hanging up that new flat screen TV. They can name a price for the work and then prescreened contractors, who undergo background checks and must submit licenses and insurance information to the site, bid. Or homeowners can ask several contractors to place their own bids and pick the best.
Servicemagic.com also matches up homeowners with prescreened contractors, but users don’t have to post profiles or spell out their projects in as much detail. The basic matching is free. But homeowners can pay $20 a year for access to a do-it-yourself hot line, project advisers and more.
Do it yourself
If you’ve done the research and want to tackle a project yourself, go online before heading out to the tool shed to make sure you know what to do.
Home Depot’s site, www.homeimproverclub.com, takes you step-by-step through projects like installing drywall or planting bulbs, with pictures and shopping lists. Projects are also sortable by difficulty, so you can know if installing under-cabinet lighting is harder than replacing a sink sprayer. (It is.) You can also choose projects by room. An e-mail subscription service offers tips, such as ideas for weekend projects based on the weather.
Story tags » Home Improvement

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